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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hot Stove: What Will the Giants Do?

Remember last offseason? The season where the Giants were coming off a rousing World Series championship in the best fashion - 7 games? Their clutch third baseman was going to be a free agent. So, too, were 2/5's of their starting pitchers. And there was our former set-up turned closer turned set-up reliever that was also a goner. And alas, that goofy OF/1B who hit a huge PH home run in the NLCS to set up that other 1B/OF who hit a walkoff to propel the team to the World Series? He was going to be a free agent as well. In other words, a lot of money was about to come off the books for those World Champion Giants. Fans and media alike thought...

"Watch out for San Francisco. They just won the World Series. They have a lot of money and players coming off the books. And they've sold out, like, a trillion games at AT&T Park."

So what happened?

The Giants miraculously were outbid for Sandoval's services by Boston. Jon Lester picked Chicago over SF in a Bachelor episode or something and wound up pitching for the Cubs as well. Mike Morse wanted more than a one year contract that the Giants weren't willing to give him. And the Giants surveyed the market and thought...

"Well gee. There's not too much out here we like. But next year there's a lot we may like. So we'll just sign a couple guys we know and like and then we'll figure this thing out later. Maybe we'll win some games too."

And so that is what they did. They re-signed Jake Peavy, they re-signed Ryan Vogelsong, they re-signed Sergio Romo. And since they needed SOMEBODY to play third base, they traded for Casey McGehee. They also realized late in the game they might need someone to replace Morse's spot in left field and they didn't envision that person to be Gregor Blanco or Travis Ishikawa so they signed Nori Aoki.  And that was it. No splashy signings. No big free agents. Just a bunch of guys that helped them win the big enchilada just months previous and a couple newbies that combined to make 8M dollars.

It can be debated on whether or not it was a good strategy. The Giants got ravaged with injuries but they did manage to hang around the divisional and wild card races into September. Had they stayed healthy maybe the 2014-2015 offseason plan would have worked. Unfortunately, the Giants WERE ravaged by injuries and that exposed a lack of depth that they were unable to overcome given the strengths of the teams they were chasing.

Now it's the 2015-2016 offseason. And because of their lack of long term spend during last year's offseason, they now have nearly doubled their nest egg for a free agent class that has depth in the areas the Giants need it most: starting pitching and the outfield.

So what will the Giants do with their approximate 50M cheddar? It's hard to say. It's almost impossible to think they'd pull another 2014-2015 type of offseason. First of all, Jeremy Affeldt and Tim Hudson retired, so they can't even re-sign those guys if they wanted to (thanks for retiring guys and thanks for the memories).  Tim Lincecum is too broken to actually be given a large, ridiculous contract, hence saving the Giants from themselves. He may come back on an incentive laden deal but at least he won't be coming back for 2yrs/35M. I mean, in theory, the Giants COULD re-sign Mike Leake and Ryan Vogelsong and that would precisely mirror the re-signing of Peavy and Vogelsong last offseason but it's much more likely the Giants finally will wave goodbye to Vogey for good this offseason. It is expected however the Giants will try hard to retain Leake. I'm not really sure that's the best way to spend 80-90M (I think Leake will wind up with at minimum a 5yr/85M deal). Many experts are pointing to Leake's youth and decent stats pitching in a hitter's park for his career as signs he would be a good long term investment but to me, he is the definition of a #3 or #4 starter. He eats innings, he pitches to contact, he doesn't strikeout guys, and when he doesn't have his location, he gets rocked. Is that what I want my team to spend 15-18M per year? Nope, not really.

So what do the Giants do? They HAVE to sign at least one starter and in an ideal world two. Peavy will be a free agent after 2016 and Matt Cain looked mostly awful upon his return from an injury riddled 2014 and 2015. The Giants do have intriguing starting pitching prospects coming up the pike but no one that looks to stand out as that co-ace they want to pair with Madison Bumgarner. This free agent market has plenty of starting pitching talent to it. Could the Giants realistically go for the very top tier? The David Price's or the Zack Greinke's? Sure, they could. But would they? Price is going to get over 200M and the Giants just do not do that for pitchers (or for anyone, really). If they wanted to go to that level, they would have been in the Max Scherzer auction last offseason but they weren't. Greinke likely won't get 200M but he'll get somewhere between 150-175M most likely. Would the Giants do THAT? Possibly, only because they seem to love everything Greinke brings to the table as well as what it'd mean to steal from LA. But my brain says that there's no way the Dodgers let him go to San Francisco. Beyond Greinke and Price, there's plenty of good pitchers left on the market. Jordan Zimmermann has been on my radar a long time but his 2015 was a step down from what he usually produces. Would that scare the Giants off? I have no idea what the Giants are planning. Would they get two mid-level starters and feel okay with that? Or one high priced starter and one flier guy that would only require a 1-3 year commitment?

Then there's the outfield. The Giants, somewhat surprisingly, shook up their outfield by declining Aoki's option. I mean, I get it. He wasn't the best fielder and all he brings to the table is base hits and some speed. Maybe they thought he was redundant with Blanco. Or maybe they're aiming higher. The Giants have ZERO outfield depth in their system. Their best outfield prospects are Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson. Those guys are knocking on the door but they hardly seem to be stars in waiting. And Pagan's on his last legs (pun intended). Could the Giants shake up their outfield outlook this offseason? Could you imagine Jason Heyward patrolling left field with Pence in right? What a defensive corner outfield. Of course, Heyward won't happen because he too is rumored to get 200M this offseason and I'm not sure his tools are worth that and I doubt the Giants would spend to find out. But there are many other intriguing options out there both in free agency and the trade market. With little in the way of outfield prospects coming up, the Giants could use some of their ducats to try to get younger and more athletic in left and center.

At the end of the day, I have absolutely no idea what the Giants are going to do this offseason. All I know is they have about 50M to spend and that after the lackluster 2014-2015 offseason and the pressure of missing the playoffs after a successful World Series run the year previous, the Giants will likely spend that chestnut this offseason. In what way is going to be the most fun storyline for Giants fans this winter.